Saturday, July 01, 2006

sacsa critique

Critique of South Australian Curriculum Standards and Accountability Framework (SACSA) from the perspective of how it treats Information Technology.

I have posted the following critique to the SA IT teachers list, to the EdNA Game Making in Education Forum (discussion with Nick Perkins in the Physics for Game Designers thread) and to the Game Learning wiki (short response from Tony Forster)
When you compare ICT with maths and science the problem is simply that we don't have a subject, we don't have subject content, before Stage one (Year 11)

Science for example has strands that contain content such as Earth and Space, Energy Systems, Life Systems and Matter

By contrast Design and Technology only has the generalised process strands of Critiquing, Designing, Making and the content in the examples is drawn from diverse areas - in 5.4 examples there is mentioned solar cars, animal enclosures, veterinarians overalls and a robotic arm.

We don't have content in the sense that science, maths and other subject have content.

I have heard it said that the authors of SACSA think that the 5 Essential Learnings (Futures, Identity, Interdependence, Thinking and Communication) should replace the traditional subject domains.

But of course to do that for subjects such as Science, Maths etc. would create too much resistance because the history and traditional of those subjects is greater than ICT.

ICT is the latecomer to the curriculum feast and one the main characteristics of curriculum committee meetings is turf war.

ICT is both overarching (the computer is the universal machine that can simulate any established media) and specific. Like other subjects ICT does have specific content. If ICT was as old as maths and science then we would have well established subject content in years 8-10, with names such as:
  • programming
  • computer systems / hardware
  • software applications (desktop, web based)
  • database
  • multimedia
  • internet / www / search
Subjects such as these are usually NOT covered well in an integrated curriculum because the teacher of the integrated curriculum does not have the necessary computing expertise. Once again this partly results from computing being the latecomer to the curriculum feast, creating a generation gap in expertise.

In this context, SACSA denies us a subject in 8-10 without being even handed and denying other more established curriculum areas a subject.

When a year 8 arrives in a secondary school one of the first messages they now receive is that learning ICT is not very important, compared with maths, science, english etc. because no specific lesson time is allocated to it. Imagine the outcry this would cause if it was done to English, yet it is arguable that ICT teachers are more familiar with English than English teachers are with computing.

To make things worse the Design and Technology standards and examples are replete with a touchy feely ethical PC feel good language which is far more concentrated than for other Curriculum areas. What sort of products should we be designing, making and critiquing and in what sort of ways should we be carrying out these activities. Here are some of the phrase which promote a particular ethical stance, in just a few pages from standard 5:
  • pollution, obsolescence, social displacement ...
  • design a car in terms of quality of life of all species
  • animal and human rights
  • ethically desirable opinion
  • critical analysis and ethical issues about genetic engineering
  • transport needs of a group of senior citizens
  • ecologically defensible designs of a fruit drying product
  • politically empowering interactive website to support biodiversity
  • devices to be used by people with arthritis
  • a piece of furniture made from recycled materials
  • competition standard solar car
  • animal enclosure
  • veterinarians overalls
  • fertilisers for an organic vegetable garden
  • watering device that is socially and environmentally sustainable
  • low voltage light system work station for a person with a disability
  • promotes a case for non genetically modifiable foods
  • wind powered machines
LOL, this reminds me of the caricature slogan for those who went to each every demo in the 60s, "land rights for gay whales".

Get the drift? This is promoting a particular political position about the use of technology which is present but not as prominent in the other curriculum areas I have looked at.

The "ethical" and political stance represented above are generated from outside of the real internal social dynamic that technology and ICT in particular has created in its own right. ICT has created hot political and social issues of significance such as censorware (filtering), open source v. proprietary software, digital rights management, copyright law, Artificial Intelligence, social implications of Moores Law to name a few. Not one of these is mentioned in the higly politicised language of the Design and Technology statements. It all points in one direction, towards stability and stasis.

What does SACSA give to ICT teachers?
  • no content to promote our case in schools cf. other curriculum areas (not even handed)
  • a political line which assumes we all ought to be members of the Green Party
For what it is worth something similar is happening in Victoria with their new curriculum framework called VELS. There have been a lot of complaints on the Vic lists about how VELS has been used to integrate computing into the curriculum and destroy exisiting stand alone computing subject there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Could not agree more with you Bill. I have just had to create a set fo documents for a curriculum review in 2011 for a subject that technically and problematically does not exist.

An added absurdity is that I also find it strange that at my school at least Psychology stands as a faculty in its own right whilst "Computing" and "Tech" (Manual Arts)with their obvious diversity are counted as a single faculty.

And let me guess.... who do the established facilties and admin turn to in moments of crises....umm the ICT folk?